On paper the fifth edition to the Belmont Park 2014 season looked like a day for the favourites – the result would be anything but, with only one public elect saluting courtesy of an upheld protest. We expected the backmarkers to be prominent – some were, most weren’t – as the mystery that is Belmont Park again buried punters. Top apprentice Ben Paterson did best of the hoops, recording a magnificent treble in the saddle. Paterson started his procession with arguably the ride of the day when bringing Cyclonic Halo from the rear for a barnstorming last stride victory for Simon Barass in the second – came from the clouds again with a stirring ride aboard Saxy Grace for Adam Durrant in the fourth, before completing his trifecta of victories with an all-the-way win with California Valley for Bruce Watkins and Gary Hitchcock in the fifth. The trainers shared the spoils, although the feature reward went to Grant Williams when his Canny Lad mare Elite Belle demolished rivals in the Group 3 Belmont Sprint feature.
PR1). Westspeed Nursery HCP 2YO BM62+ 1000m.
Scratching’s plagued the opening race for the day, and when raging favourite Rebel King was added to the withdrawals, we were left with a disappointing four starters. Emphatic trial winner Festive Excel ($1.60 fav) was propelled into outright favouritism, but when the Exceed And Excel colt started to wobble on the turn for home after leading, the first of the upsets was upon us. Promising apprentice Renee Forrest had sat debutant Rio Flyer ($11.00) outside the leader and looked to have their more fancied opponent easily covered on the turn. Just as all seemed in hand – all of sudden one thing wasn’t – Forrest losing her whip at the 300m, and forced to ride “hands and heels” as the favourite mounted another challenge. But under vigorous riding, the Oratorio filly kept going – responding gamely for Forrest to shoot clear for a bold 1 ¾ length victory.
WATCH: All credit to Forrest for getting Rio Flyer to the line under difficult circumstance – one could only imagine the margin had everything gone right.
PR2). LD Total HCP BM60+ 1200m.
The second event was a relatively open affair, with punters hinging their unconvinced hopes on the drifting Takanori ($3.00 – $3.40 fav) and multiple provincial winner Storm Sense ($4.40 – $4.20) – they were wary, and had every right to be. Wombie’s Legacy ($8.00) led them to the turn and with an amazing turn of foot, extended its lead to fourth lengths inside the final furlong and looked home for all money. Meanwhile towards the rear of the field, Ben Paterson was stoking up Cyclonic Halo ($17.00) and when the Hurricane Sky 5yo responded, the race was back on. Wombie’s Legacy was stopping quickly, and in a desperate dash to the line Cyclonic Halo gathered the leader in the shadows of the post – the judge’s finding a head margin.
WATCH: WOW!!! – What a run from Cyclonic Halo – a very good horse who looks back to its best.
PR3). Westspeed HCP 3YO BM62+ 1200m.
Despite a late drift in the market, Arcadia Rose ($3.00 – $3.20 fav) appealed to most following a luckless first up run the other week behind the classy Chinetti, but again the Kheleyf filly would have to be content with the runner-up cheque. Sanctitude ($10.00) led as expected, with Crown Lawyer ($11.00) and Arcadia Rose taking handy positions in a race that was run at a fast clip. Turning for home Crown Lawyer kicked clear with Arcadia Rose in hot pursuit, but the bird had flown – Crown Lawyer holding on for dear life to prevail by a half-head from the favourite, with the fast finishing Mireille ($7.00) zipping into third.
WATCH: Not much to report in this one, but Sanctitude looks set to run them ragged very soon – will pay to watch the market in its next race.
PR4). Vale Allan Young HCP BM66+ 2200m.
From a punters perspective – the fourth race was a complete disaster. The turf investors had heavily commissioned the promising Husson filly Star Of Husson ($2.45 fav) – hoping to cash in on what was looking like one of local racing’s great success stories. If ever there was an example of why you should not give up on a horse – Star Of Husson is it. Taking ten frustrating starts to break its maiden status, Star Of Husson had finally arrived – linking three dominant victories on end and propelling itself into Belmont Oak contention in the process. But today would see the bubble burst (if only momentarily). From barrier eight, premiership jockey William Pike proceeded to extricate the favourite towards the rail in a game attempt to find a handy sit, but when forced into the three wide lane with no cover, and with second elect Go Tiger ($3.60) storming to the front, Pike was forced to kick up on his mount to sit outside the leader. It was from there we saw a very brave attempt from a non-preferred position, as Star Of Husson hit the lead in the straight, before being gathered in late by the backmarkers – Saxy Grace ($8.00) doing the best to outlast Dragonlead ($9.50) by a long head – the favourite finishing a game length and a quarter fourth.
WATCH: Despite doing our dough – Star Of Husson showed enough for mine, and should be returning to the winners list very soon.
PR5). Celebrate WA HCP BM60+ 1600m.
There would be no relief for the shattered punters in the fifth, as again the “good-thing” would come unstuck. Gladstone ($2.70 fav) had done everything but win last weekend, when flying home from near last to fall short by a heart breaking half-head length. California Valley ($17.00) and Kim Mini ($8.00) hit the ground running, and when the pair spaced rivals inside the final furlong, they had the race between them – the former fighting hard to cling to a half-head victory, giving Ben Paterson a riding treble. Gladstone was in all sorts of trouble on straightening, but jumped out of the ground late to round out the minors a further long neck astern.
WATCH: Another big run from Gladstone and a terrific effort from Kim Mini from a wide draw – both conveyances stay under notice.
PR6). WA Day Plate BM 72+ 1300m.
As the despondent punters looked for a bridge to jump from, lady luck was about to land in their lap – albeit, the hard way. The money for classy up and comer Cool Trade ($2.35 – $1.90 fav) was equivalent to a tidal wave swamping the Bookies ring, but when Trading Day ($5.50) crossed the line a long neck clear of the raging favourite, punters hopes seemed dashed. But jockey Pat Carbery was quick to interject – firing in a protest citing interference at the 300m mark, and after a lengthy duration the judges agreed – reversing the finishing order and awarding the race to Cool Trade. You could hear the crazy giggles, as punters crawled on all fours in search of their discarded “winning” tickets.
WATCH: Fiddlers Elbow copped a massive bump on the turn, and still managed to fly home into third – would have got very close with a clear run.
PR7). $125,000 Group 3 Belmont Sprint 1400m.
It was like the charge of the light brigade as the barrier flew open, with half the field pressing forward in what was a desperate fight to find the lead. Checkpoint ($3.30 – $2.80 fav) was one of them, but it was always going to be a hard task for the major market mover to sustain the frenetic speed. Elite Belle ($3.50) had received a lot of media during the week following a luckless run in the Roma Cup a fortnight prior, and when William Pike pulled his mount off the rail and presented on the turn – the leaders were cannon fodder – the Canny Lad mare blowing away rivals in a blink of the eye to record a clinical two length whitewash. Kalahaar ($5.50) ran on well from sixth to claim second in a photo finish with a game Checkpoint.
WATCH: It was a terrific effort from When We Were Kings in its first attempt at the elite level to finish fourth – definitely one to back next start in easier company.
PR8). Stuart Taylor 60th Birthday BM66+ 1400m.
“$4.60 the field” was not the way punters wanted their horrific day to conclude, but at least the two public elects would fight out the finish of a very tricky final race. Dark Delight ($4.60) was resuming from a spell with a handy trial under its belt, while the Holy Roman Emperor mare Songburg ($7.00) had demanded recognition following a narrow midweek victory. Tax A Million ($41.00) surprised no one when springing the gates full of beans to take up the lead, but was a spent commodity as they entered the straight as Dark Delight hit the front momentarily before jock Shaun O’Donnell charged Songburg down the centre of the track and swallowed up the favourite late for a brilliant half-length salute.
WATCH: Really impressive run from State Form coming from last to get within a length – we will watching closely next start.
Good Grief!!! – a card promising so much – offered so little, and by race four we were concentrating on Broome. Best bet Star Of Husson and Gladstone were our worst results, and when each way fancy Fiddlers Elbow got bumped into tomorrow, we were looking to take up lawn bowls. We did find the quartet (first 4) in the Fiddlers race which paid $78.80, and the win of Elite Belle recovered some ground but the damage had been well and truly done. No Quaddie, No Multi, No Hope…
The Verdict: Like most – a massive fail…